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Niger Delta fishermen urge govt to prevail on Shell to pay Bonga spill fine

Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) on Friday, January 1, 2021 urged the Federal Government to leverage on its successes in containing the COVID-19 Pandemic to avert another lockdown in the new year.

Oil spill pollution
A water body in the Niger Delta polluted by crude oil

They equally appealed to the government to prevail on Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to pay the $3.6 billion fine imposed by the oil industry regulators over the 2011 Bonga oilfield spill.

The fishermen noted that they were yet to recover from the adverse impact of the 2020 lockdown on the fisheries sector, and lamented that they were excluded from the palliatives given to the agric sector to guarantee food security.

Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Coordinator of ARFAN in the Niger Delta, said in an interview in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, that another lockdown following the spread of the Coronavirus would be unbearable for fishermen.

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Ayadi noted that the fishermen had suffered untold hardship fishing at the nation’s territorial waters since 2011 when an equipment failure from the Bonga Offshore field operated by SNEPC discharged some 40,000 barrels of crude into the waters.

On December 20, 2011, during loading of crude at Bonga fields within OML 118 situated at 120 kilometres off the Atlantic coastline, the export line ruptured and discharged crude oil into the sea.

The export line, according to a Joint Investigation Report by National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA} and SNEPCO, spewed about 40,000 barrels (6.4 million litres) of crude oil into the sea.

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Ayadi further appealed to the federal government to prevail on Shell to obey the courts and pay a $3.6 billion imposed by regulators for the Bonga spill incident adding that the compensation would ensure that fishermen thrown out of business would recover.

Ayadi noted that having complied with a regulatory order by NOSDRA to pull out of fishing to avoid catch contaminated fish that could compromise public health, they deserved to be indemnified for loss of income whilst the clean up lasted.

NODRA had in March 2015 imposed the fine on Shell for discharging 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 20, 2011.

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The fine comprised a $1.8 billion fine as compensation for the damages done to natural resources and consequential loss of income by the affected shoreline communities as well as a punitive damage of $1.8 billion.

Following a legal action instituted by Shell at a Federal High Court in Lagos, Trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, on June 20, 2018 dismissed the suit challenging the imposing of $3.6 billion fine on it by  NOSDRA.

The fishermen impacted by the Dec. 20, 2011 spill from the Bonga Oilfields applauded the judiciary for the judgment which upheld the fine, but regretted that the judgment was yet to be complied with.

By Nathan Nwakamma

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